Glioblastoma May Soon Be Diagnosed with a Simple Blood Test

Researchers from the University of Sussex have identified novel biomarkers in human bodily fluids which signal the presence of glioblastoma. These findings, published in Communications Biology, could represent the initial step towards developing a blood test to detect this aggressive form of brain cancer.

Lead researcher, Georgios Giamas, Professor of Cancer Cell Signaling in the School of Life Sciences stated in a press release that “at the moment, the outlook for glioblastoma patients is bleak. As the most aggressive type of brain tumor, survival rate is low.”

Researchers are currently investigating the possibility of developing liquid biopsies to spot certain types of cancers (e.g. pancreatic cancer). So rather than cutting a piece of tissue from an affected organ, these fluid-based tests would enable to doctors to extract a small amount of blood and test it against a range of biomarkers to determine the cancer subtype.

There are three sub-types of glioblastoma which all have biomarkers containing different information. The more researchers can discern about these signatures, the more likely they are to develop a diagnostic test that can yield optimal outcomes while personalizing each patient’s treatment based on their cancer subtype. “Our research provides more information about the markers which can signal the presence of glioblastoma – and the fact we’ve been able to identify ones that are associated with extracellular vesicles, suggests that there could be a way to use bodily fluids to test for the tumor in future,” added Prof. Giamas.

A Potentially ‘Invaluable’ Test

Dr. Thomas Simon, co-author of this study, said that: “Liquid biopsies mean a less invasive procedure for patients, and arguably quicker results – something which is invaluable for those with an aggressive tumor that severely cuts life expectancy. But it could also mean better patient follow-up care, as a simple test can be carried out to check for the efficacy of existing treatments or for monitoring relapse. The more we know about biomarkers the better, so this is a step which should provide hope for anyone whose lives have been impacted by glioblastoma.”

Rosemary Lane, a PhD student in Professor Giamas’ lab and co-author of the study, added that: “Glioblastoma subtyping is crucial for patient prognosis and personalized therapies. The fact that we can identify these molecular differences in extracellular vesicles is very exciting and will be of huge importance for discovering new biomarkers in the future.”

The next step for Prof. Giamas’ team will be to elucidate their findings by testing these newly identified biomarkers on live glioblastoma patients.